Donald J. Trump gladly takes credit for things he hasn’t done, like erecting many of the buildings that bear his name, but one of his truly significant deeds has unfortunately been left uncredited. Trump was the midwife for the rebirth of midtown Manhattan—altering its skyline, its economic architecture, and the makeup of its upper class. And that accomplishment spotlights some of the contradictions that make him a simultaneously compelling and repellant character.
Trump was always a huckster, but he started his career developing and selling something fresh and innovative, a new kind of apartment building that, three-plus decades later, has drawn the world’s wealthiest to New York’s Billionaire’s Belt, the swath of condo towers that stretch across midtown’s belly from Columbus Circle (home to Fifteen Central Park West, the Time-Warner Center and Trump International Hotel & Tower), past the so-called supertalls of Fifty-seventh Street, to Beacon Court aka the Bloomberg Building just west of Third Avenue.
Trump set the stage for the ascendance of New York City’s new plutocracy, the moneyed scrum of bankers, alternative investment managers, corporate chieftains, infotainment and tech wizards and foreigners of provenances both reputable and dubious who comprise our latest upper class, the .01 percent who have rendered New York’s old aristocracies, from the WASPS of the 18th and 19th centuries to the private equity and venture capital nabobs of the late 20th, irrelevant and obsolete.